What Is This Thing on My Skin?: Varicose Veins

Unfortunately, they’re genetic, so if your parents have them, chances are you will, too…


You can now stop freaking out about that bump, blemish or rash that’s popped up on your skin and seriously ruined your week. Dr. Lisa Chipps, dermatologist and assistant clinical professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, is here to help you figure out why it’s there and how to make it disappear from your skin as quickly as your body will allow.

I dread summer because it means wearing shorts. Which also means that everyone can see the varicose veins on my legs and ankles. Is there anything I can do to make them go away?
First, it’s important to understand why they’re there in order to determine how you might get rid of them. Simply put, varicose veins are dilated veins or stretched veins. They become dilated or stretched when the valves inside the veins—which help the fluid move up against gravity—get weak and leaky, so they fill with fluid and swell up under the skin. Unfortunately, they’re genetic, so if your parents have them, chances are you will, too. But don’t think you’re in the clear if mom and dad never had varicose veins—pregnancy, obesity and prolonged standing are also common causes.

As far as prevention goes, you want to catch varicose veins early. Usually before they fully develop, you’ll see what we call spider veins—those tiny veins that look like a spider’s web on the skin. That’s when you should start wearing compression socks, which give your veins support and help move the fluid from the feet and ankles back to the heart. I especially recommend them to people who stand all day like flight attendants. If you’re someone who sits at a desk all day, kick your feet up every once in awhile to relieve some pressure.

If you already have varicose veins and want to get rid of them, you have a few options. I recommend a procedure called sclerotherapy. For smaller varicose veins or spider veins, we inject a solution directly into the veins to cause irritation inside the walls. That irritation essentially closes up the passageway and keeps fluid from continuing to build up. For larger varicose veins, we do the same procedure, but we add a medical foam to the mix, which helps to coat the entire vein to prevent fluid buildup. Both procedures are very common and incredibly safe.